Sturgeon shouting into the wind? It’s business as usual…
EUPHORIA after a landslide election win would be an entirely legitimate reaction among the hierarchy of the SNP.
But Nicola Sturgeon seems not to be relishing her victory – barring her frenzied fist-pumping after witnessing Jo Swinson’s defeat.
Indeed, she has complained that Scotland remains ‘imprisoned’ in the UK, and that Boris Johnson is effectively locking Scotland ‘in a cupboard’ by refusing another Scexit referendum.
‘The Tories might rage against the reality of what happened on Thursday for a while,’ she said on Sunday, ‘but ultimately they are going to have to face up to and confront that reality.’
Rage is more easily detectable, however, among the SNP leadership and wider separatist movement: it is, after all, their default mode.
But there’s also something rather shrill, bordering on unhinged, about the First Minister’s latest diatribe.
True, Mr Johnson might well secretly yearn to lock Miss Sturgeon in a cupboard, but it’s a funny kind of incarceration that means every one of its inmates receives an average of £2,000 as a result of Scotland’s membership of the UK. It’s also, of course, a voluntary imprisonment.
As soft as Scottish jails have become under the SNP’s watch, their clientele are unlikely to be quite so richly rewarded; and besides, does anyone really feel like a prisoner of the UK Government, beyond the woad-painted Nationalists who march through city centres on Saturday afternoons?
This centuries-long colonial oppression is also about to lead to billions of pounds flooding into the public purse in Scotland as a consequence of the Barnett formula, which means we proportionately benefit from Westminster spending.
Then there’s Stewart Hosie, SNP MP for Dundee East, who told Sky News presenter Kay Burley yesterday that Mr Johnson would be a ‘despot’ if he rejected Miss Sturgeon’s formal request for another referendum.
Mr Hosie stepped down as SNP deputy leader in 2016 after having an affair with journalist Serena Cowdy (now his wife), who had described the Nationalists as ‘the Mujahideen of British politicians’.
In that spirit, Mr Hosie failed to rule out an illegal Catalan-style referendum when asked if the SNP would proceed with a poll without the requisite legal formalities, an idea that has gained some traction in separatist circles.
After calling the poll, the SNP would then wait until the UK Government launched a legal challenge, then a courtroom battle would ensue, with the SNP cases perhaps spearheaded by Miss Sturgeon’s nemesis, Joanna Cherry QC.
In the space of a few short days, the SNP’s jubilation has soured into bitter resignation, and once again it finds itself shouting into the wind.
The party is in fact a prisoner of its own success – having boosted its own contingent in the Commons, it finds itself entirely impotent in the face of a towering Tory majority.
In fact, they are similar to the pool of 50 Labour MPs, led by Donald Dewar, who went to sit in opposition to Margaret Thatcher in 1987.
The SNP, who lionised Mr Dewar following his death, sent him a white feather in the post – branding his group the ‘Feeble Fifty’.
Labour’s 1987 generation spent most of their careers in opposition, as Mrs Thatcher introduced the poll tax.
Mr Hosie and his fellow Mujahideen fell a little short of 50 seats last week, but there is no indication the ‘Feeble 47' will be any more effective than their Labour predecessors.
The PM is holding firm against the SNP tantrum like a toddler denied an iPad, or a sugary treat.
Hence the collective meltdown of the party’s bosses, notably Miss Sturgeon, as she attempts to process the scale of a triumph that might be remembered as a Pyrrhic victory.
Mind you, if you’re looking for some intellectual firepower, there’s always the Nationalists’ economics guru, Andrew Wilson.
He was the mastermind behind the SNP think-tank which hatched the cunning post-independence plan of setting up a new currency (after a spell of using the pound without permission).
Mr Wilson, in a more serene state of mind than Miss Sturgeon, tweeted that the ‘whole idea of independence is that different visions compete and we become our choices – every time’.
He added: ‘Getting the nation built, the transition from where we are now, getting set up and back into the EU matter.
‘But [this] will then create a stage on which alternative ideas can bloom.’
Those ‘alternative ideas’ might well include using the euro, or the hyper-austerity necessitated by a madcap currency strategy that would place savings and pensions at risk.
The Zen-like calm of Mr Wilson and his vision of a Scotland where ideas can ‘bloom’ might have more credence if our ‘choices’ back in 2014 had been respected.
There are also uncomfortable echoes of Chairman Mao ‘letting a hundred flowers bloom’, his policy of encouraging the people to air their views about his repressive Communist regime.
That brief period of liberalisation was swiftly followed by a crackdown which saw dissenters sent to prison labour camps.
Surely an unintentional parallel, but then the SNP isn’t always a party entirely at ease with internal disagreements – of which there have been many in recent months.
That factionalism hasn’t gone away, and may account for the urgency of some of Miss Sturgeon’s barmy rhetoric in recent days.
Now that Miss Cherry is back in Westminster alongside former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, newly elected as MP for East Lothian, and Mr Hosie, a potentially formidable rival power-base to the Sturgeon regime is beginning to form.
They are all supporters of the SNP’s spiritual leader, Alex Salmond, currently facing trial on a string of sex charges, which he denies.
While Miss Sturgeon is emboldened by her success (despite being badly rattled by Mr Johnson’s rebuff to her Scexit demand), this rump of London plotters might well work to undermine her.
Mr Hosie was cut adrift by the Sturgeonistas after he cheated on the First Minister’s close friend, former Health Secretary Shona Robison, by embarking on the affair with Miss Cowdy.
For now a leadership challenge is probably far from Miss Sturgeon’s mind – though the Salmond trial, set to start in March, almost certainly isn’t.
Salmond has kept quiet about the SNP result last week, but there can be no disguising the deep fault-lines that have opened up between his camp and the current First Minister’s supporters.
In the aftermath of the trial, Miss Sturgeon is to face a ministerial inquiry and Scottish parliament investigation into the Government’s handling of complaints against Salmond.
Turbulent months lie ahead, but for now the celebrations have a muted feel – and Mr Johnson must take the blame for that.
Miss Sturgeon is desperate to paint him as Scotland’s jailer, using his majority to turn the key on his northern neighbours – and throw it into the long grass.
In fact, for as long as he honours his promise not to countenance a replay of the poisonous independence vote in 2014, he is a liberator of ordinary Scots who long ago wearied of the SNP’s constitutional games.
*This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on December 17, 2019.